The workflow tag has been applied to 16 questions.

As far as I can tell, this tag has little meaning and no usefulness--practically any question could be tagged with it--so I am thinking of deleting it from the site.

Am I wrong? What are the arguments for keeping it?

4 Answers 4


Would like to keep the tag workflow


workflow to our commercial company is "a sequence of connected steps" - in my work, scope and process are used. In FME Workbench the parallel sequences are known as streams. workflow seems to be a generic request of steps or sequences.

Flow (flowchart) is common to workflow:

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  • 2
    That's a great point. A quick perusal of our workflow tagged questions suggests (to me) however that they do not use the word in this clear, refined sense. In your opinion, do any of them use workflow in this way? Which one(s)?
    – whuber
    May 24, 2013 at 16:26
  • 6
    proposal 1: add Mapperz description to the workflow tag and remove the tag from posts which don't use it that way. Many of the tagged Q's contain "workflow" in the text, so people searching could still find them if the tag were removed. May 24, 2013 at 19:23

I think workflow best describes situations where spatial data is being to be handed off between different toolsets and/or different groups of people in an organization. When there is only one tool, and only one user (or group of users) in a process, calling it workflow is not appropriate.

Also, questions relating to workflow tools like FME or Microsoft Workflow Foundation should be tagged.

By that definition, these would be workflow related:

Data ETL workflow optimization

Workflow for sharing inventory of stormwater network in Open Source GIS?

Automatically delete services after a set period of time

And these are not ...

Want to dissolve adjacent polygons but no common edges

QGIS Workflow Problem

Are there limitations with gdal virtual raster option?

  • I found a broader definition which seems to be trying to make a similar distinction on the ESRI pages. It offers two definitions: (1) "An organization's established processes for design, construction, and maintenance of programs, products, and business objectives" and (2) "A set of tasks carried out in a certain order to achieve a goal." I think the latter is too general to be useful, but the former is sufficiently specific and well-defined to be useful. Is that close to what you are suggesting?
    – whuber
    May 24, 2013 at 19:36
  • I think this definition is a little too specific: "spatial data" -- why not non-spatial data, or how about no data at all? Additionally some workflows can certainly be accomplished by 1 person. I think the tag is applicable when the question is about a series of steps, and particularly the order or arrangement of such steps, and not necessarily just because the question is in the context of a workflow-like tool.
    – blah238
    May 25, 2013 at 3:51
  • @blah238 If it doesn't pertain to "spatial data", then I was thinking the question shouldn't be posted in GIS.SE. May 28, 2013 at 1:24

Some of those questions would be hard to tag if we didn't have a workflow tag.

  • 3
    That's a great criterion for closing a question! If nobody can identify any content to the question beyond "workflow," then what's it about?
    – whuber
    May 24, 2013 at 16:23

I think like with most tag terms, we can use the first sentence or two of the corresponding Wikipedia article as a summary:

A workflow consists of a sequence of connected steps. Emphasis is on the flow paradigm, where each step follows the precedent without delay or gap and ends just before the subsequent step may begin.

If we don't want to lift from Wikipedia or ESRI, how about this definition:

In the context of GIS, a workflow describes a series of steps involved in collecting, deriving, refining, or disseminating information using GIS-related software and/or hardware, with an emphasis on the arrangement, selection, or order of such steps.

Some example questions (just making these up, they may or may not have existing equivalents):

  • What is the process for collecting data in the field and storing it in a centralized database?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of multi-user editing workflows in SDE?
  • What is the workflow for publishing data to ArcGIS Online?

I think the tag is applicable when the question is explicitly about a series of steps, and particularly the order or arrangement of such steps, and not necessarily just because the question is in the context of a workflow-like tool like (Workflow Manager Extension for ArcGIS) or (Feature Manipulation Engine).

A related concept is a toolchain, often used in software development to define the series of tools used to build a software product.

  • 1
    Having had some experience for the last couple of years in reviewing our tag Wikis, I would like to point out that they are not intended just to quote Wikipedia or ESRI or whatever. They are best used to give site-specific meanings and guidance for attaching searchable semantic information to threads. In a great number of cases--and this is one of them, I believe--a generic definition is not likely to be helpful or informative. The problem with the "series of steps" definition is that it would make "workflow" applicable to practically every question on this site--and therefore useless.
    – whuber
    May 27, 2013 at 15:47
  • 1
    Another example applicable to every question on GIS-SE would be the tag 'support'
    – Mapperz Mod
    May 27, 2013 at 16:04
  • @whuber I added an alternative definition and some example questions, hopefully that clarifies my position. I agree with you that tag definitions should be tailored to the site's audience when it makes sense to do so.
    – blah238
    May 27, 2013 at 18:03
  • @Mapperz, thankfully that tag only exists on meta.
    – blah238
    May 27, 2013 at 18:04

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